What are Arsenal’s best options to cover for Granit Xhaka’s injury?

What now for Arteta as Xhaka ruled out for two months?

An impressive 3-1 victory against arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspurs came at a certain cost for manager Mikel Arteta.

The Spaniard will be without one of his most trusted players for a few months: Granit Xhaka.

The Swiss international suffered an unlucky injury last weekend. But fans have shown minimum worry as his absence will create opportunities for other players in the team.

The 29-year-old was replaced by Albert Sambi Lokonga in the North London derby, and many will expect the young Belgian to keep the place.

The 21-year-old has been impressive since he made a summer switch from Belgian side Anderlecht. Despite not being a similar type of player as Xhaka, Lokonga can provide the team with something different.

It certainly means that the way we attack will be altered to some extent. The other option Arteta has at his hands is Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

The 24-year-old, who was willing to leave Arsenal in the last transfer window, has seen a lot of minutes at his preferred position of central midfield.

Despite having some good moments, the Hale End graduate has had substandard performances on that part of the pitch.

However, that can change if he is given regular minutes. Even though it is a big “if,” Arteta has no other option but to play him every now and then.

The third option is obviously Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian has played just 134 minutes of football this campaign. But he will now be entrusted a tad more given Xhaka’s absence.

Arteta has enough options to avoid having leggy players at the center of the park. His cause is helped by no European football, which has turned out to be a blessing in this case.

The former Manchester City assistant will also be pleased with the fact that the two months Xhaka will be out for also has two international breaks.

Xhaka’s injury is still not something to sweat about just now. The supporters have high hopes for Lokonga who has taken no time to settle to a new country and league.

But the Gunners faithful would be lying if they said they won’t start worrying if one of Partey or Lokonga get injured.

Time on the sidelines for either can make the next two months feel like two years.

Yash Bisht

Tags AMN Elneny lokonga


  1. Surely will miss having him alongside Partey against the tougher opponents.
    One thing everyone keeps pretending didn’t happen is the fact that every time we’ve seen the Xhaka-Partey partnership, it’s been immense as top class. Injuries keep on comuy between that partnership though.
    The only reason I’m not worried about this just yet is the fact that it’ll fasttrack Arteta’s plan for a 4-3-3 formation.
    The team picks itself already.

    Tomi… White… Gabriel… Tierney
    ……………. Partey…………….
    Saka……. Auba…. Pepe…..

    Pepe will oy sit on the bench for Sambi if Arteta doesn’t trust him for a game or if he doesn’t improve.

    1. “the fact that every time we’ve seen the Xhaka-Partey partnership, it’s been immense as top class” lol

  2. I think it’s an opportunity to play Lokonga and give him a run. He looks very able and even captained Anderlecht. I prefer Saka to Pepe and Lokonga to Xhaka. I think it’,s a great opportunity to put out, what I think is our strongest side. Just the one change and without Xhaka, Lokonga is a great replacement. AMN is a good player but lacks concentration and can get lost for periods of games. Lokonga looks a top class player in the making and was Anderlecht captain….that is quite something.

  3. Im sad that hes injured. Its definitely a blow. However, this is a good time for others to step up and take the position

    I think we can cope for 3 months

  4. We have several DMs to replace Xhaka in 4-2-3-1 formation. But Arteta could also use Odegaard to play 4-3-3, because a left-footed playmaker in the starting line-up seems important to Arteta

    Hopefully Arteta can be more flexible in his line-up selection and continue coaching Maitland-Niles/ Soares for the LB role. Maitland-Niles could be a hell of attacking LB, if he’s willing to train his weaker foot harder

    1. Gai
      Why really train somebody out of position when he is unwilling? At this stage in AMN career it is better to keep giving him minutes in his preferred position to make him better. Even if the minutes is 45minutes. He graduated from Hales End as a midfielder. He can be better. Other wise let him improve on the RFB where he can use his midfield experience to always cut inside to help. This is my opinion. In all, I just hope the absence of Xhaka doesn’t put too much pressure on Pathey considering he is injury prone.

      1. My other concern with Lokonga even though I feel he is the best replacement for Xhaka is the fact he seem to lack physical strength for a DM. He needs to improve in gym and be more fit in a physical EPL. The coach can also use a 4-3-3 to accommodate other players. Arteta only need to build a culture of collective play and fighting for each other to win more matches.

  5. Sad about Xhaka, played really well against the Spuds and his partnership with Partey was beginning to jell and their partnership was worth against the stronger teams. Get well soon Xhaka. Anyway, we have ASL as a immediate successor and AMN and Elneny can chip in. My only hope is that Partey should not get injured as that will leave ASL and AMN in the middle of the park. MA can also try Chambers in the midfield if required.

  6. I think Partey can do his job alone or the front players can back him up “if needed” playing WSR + Ode + Saka + Pepe with Pepe and Saka getting back to help Partey and receive the ball from the back side and giving more spaces for Ode and ESR moving around and creating spaces in the middle.

    Otherwise, Lokonga approved himself to be a good quality player and he is more dynamic and fast. We are safe I guess

  7. I think he should give Sambi a run in the team and see how he performs. @Grandad was spot on, he commented that when we were looking to buy Sambi that he was an excellent midfielder and was a bargain at the price. He was excellent in Belgium and I see no reason why he can’t do it here. The initial signs are very good IMO.

  8. Well it’s bad news for one of our players to get injured especially one as important as xhaka. We can just hope ND wish the 433 system can work, this is what I’ll like to see
    Tomi Ben Gabriel Tierney
    Emr Ode
    Saka Martinelli
    I think this is d best going forward

  9. The hierarchy should be Sambi > AMN > Elneny > Others.

    AMN maybe a little light weight when facing a more physical side. Elneny may not be a household name in the position but he has proved to be a dream squad player we can always rely on.

    Those two can interchange depending on the game if Sambi happens to become unavailable.

  10. I strongly believe Lokonga can fill the central midfield role well, bringing his own dynamic too.

    Besides, he was Arteta’s choice for a central midfield signing.

    He should not scatter the 4-2-3-1 formation that is working for him. So a like for like replacement is better.
    Tinkering often can be bad sometimes.

    The three attacking midfielders that are behind Aubameyang the striker chooses it self, (Smith, Odegaard, Saka) just as the back 5 has already chosen itself.

    A Lokonga-Partey partnership will flourish. They are both talented players.

  11. This is not good news!

    If Partey goes down the season is going to go pop.

    AFC will need to be in for another mid during the transfer window.

    No way the kids can fill that position alongside Partey yet.

    AFCON will drain our resources further and overall the chance creation just got worse.

    1. Xhaka’s injury means nothing for Partey. We have tried Xhaka as DM before with disastrous consequences. Partey’s cover was always going to be either Lokonga or AMN. If we buy another top DM say Bissouma, we will have to play 2 DMs when both are fit or sell one coz you cannot keep a top player on the bench for long.

  12. the key factor to being short-staffed in the midfield will be Partey’s health…the fact that we don’t have European football this season should obviously help, so MA needs to make sure that he doesn’t play Partey in Cup matches, until absolutely necessary…for me, it’s time for Lokonga and AMN to spilt the position, based on the opponent, so if we need a more defensive presence AMN starts opposite of Partey, then Lokonga is subbed into the game if goals are required, and visa versa, if we’re playing against an “inferior” squad…of course, another intriguing option, albeit unlikely due to MA’s propensity to stick with a base 4-2-3-1, is for us to become considerably more tactically flexible

  13. I will not lie and so I say that, to me at least, Xhakas absence is a huge relief and a source of joy.

    I would never wish an injury, esp not a long term one on ANY player.

    But I will not deny that I , who have wanted woeful snail pace Xhaka gone from our club almost since he first arrived, am cheered beyond measure at his absence.

    I predict a big future for Sambi and he seems the natural replacement, as he has pace, ability and intelligence, all three of which XHAKA CLEARY LACKS AND HOW!

      1. HOW TRUE Dan, to support the club above any player, as I take your post to mean. Unusual praise from you but I’ll take it gladly.

    1. I am thinking of one injury to Partey, who is injury prone now and you would be here again pleading for patience and castigating people for not showing real support, Jon?
      The only thing missing in your post is the thin spread of our midfield options, particularly based on MA’s style of play. Only Xhaka Partey have shown to properly execute his instructions and while Sambi Partey is good, it is a midfield which might get overrun.

      1. Sid I agree we have a shortage of good quality midfield players and cannot afford more keyplayere injuries. So agreement there. We have had that shortage ever since CAZORLA AND ROSICKY LEFT TOO!

        But I have never rated Xhaka in the slightest and never thought him anything other than a regular misfit and a weakness in our team and squad. And certainly NOT a key player , FAR FROM IT!
        So I see his present likely long absence as a blessing.

        My opinion and not shared by everyone but I AM ALLOWED MY VIEW AND THAT IS IT, SID!

  14. Indeed it’s a relief and a source of joy, he should never even come back, personally I won’t miss him at all

        1. Dan Oh I know, I already gave Jon his in one of the previous articles. Told him it was too low coming from him.
          I wonder if people completely know the consequences of Xhaka’s injury.
          Like most keep saying, one injury to Partey and we’re doing.
          Then you have the delusional ones expecting Lokonga to fill in and suddenly become a Partey and he should be able to battle the big boys all by himself

    1. kondwani, no one should take “joy” from injury to anyone, let alone an Arsenal player. ☹️

  15. Am excited to see Lokonga and AMN in midfield. AMN didn’t do so well but was exceptional when moved to RB. It was only his first game in the center for us. I would like to see him get a few more chances before we can really be sure he’s good or not.

    OT: Mirror Football is reporting Marseille teammates are already sick of Guendouzi attitude problems.

  16. Missed the first option, Odegaard.

    For matches against top teams I agree with your order, but against lower opposition, especially away from home, we can afford to shuffle the team to a more 4141 formation like we did at Burnley, then we can bring in Martinelli or Pepe or even one of the extra strikers. Odegaard can then drop into a slightly deeper role.

  17. I think arteta should train pepe to release the ball than dribbling because he loses alot of scoring chances.Then 1,2 touches are the best.

  18. Fast full recovery for Xhaka, wish him the best as an Arsenal player and a human being. Shame on anyone who says otherwise.
    I hope we can rotate between Niles and Sambi. And I am yet to be convinced by White or Chambers as CB so may be Tomiyaso can go as CB and one of the two can fill in DM while the other as RB.

    No cedric in starting 11 please, he falls short defensively.

  19. Cannot say I’m heartbroken regarding Xhaka’s injury. Sometimes someone’s bad luck is another’s golden chance. Have always felt that he always provided his manager’s with a safe option but not necessarily the best option and Arteta will soon discover that their is life after Xhaka. Bissouma should have been a done deal last window and we wouldn’t even be having this conversation now.

    1. I agree with you, philosophically put. But let me phrase it better than Fox or anyone else, Xhaka is a snail, error prone a sideways passer, mediocre, average player with high number of yellows and reds that never saved our team in anyway. I support the club but i am not selling my loyalty to mediocrity, Xhaka should have gone long ago same time with Arsene. Honestly speaking that guy is shit not as a man but as a footballer.

Comments are closed

Top Blog Sponsors
JustArsenal Top Ten UK Blogs